I'm going to pick up where I left off last month and talk about the second in a series of blues performances sponsored by the Kyana Blues Society, thanks to a grant from the Fund for the Arts. Jim Rosen and John Burgard teamed up for a very enjoyable set of blues Sunday afternoon, February 28, in the staff lounge of the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. It was a cozy setting with the warm glow of table lamps, walnut paneling and living room furniture where about twenty-five people came to hear some blues downstairs.
Rosen began playing with the Bluebirds and is today considered one of the best harp players in this part of the country. Wanting to play more blues, he established da Mudcats in 1987. The group's star has been rising ever since.
John Burgard holds down the lead guitar and vocal duties with Murphy's Law. Burgard and Rosen have been playing together as a duo for nearly two years. It was a treat to have a chance to hear their talents in such an intimate setting without their full band backup.
Their one hour set ran the gamut from the traditional blues of Robert Johnson's "Come Into My Kitchen," to the Chicago blues of Muddy Water's "Rollin' Stone." Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" jazzed things up. The pair traded solos and vocals nicely and what a contrast in voices! John's soft melodic voice was appropriate for his version of "Walking Mule," while Jim's deep, gravely voice was well suited for "Nine Below Zero" and "Let Your Hair Down, Baby."
John was playing an unusual Godin guitar and Jim was blowing a Lee Oskar harp. When he opened his case, it was full of Oskar harps – probably because Oskar sponsors him.
The duo will be performing at Clifton's Pizza during February, as well as hosting blues jams each Sunday at Gators.
During the February meeting of the Kyana Blues Society, we were discussing ways the Society could generate more interest in the local blues scene. What emerged was an amateur blues contest that originally had been suggested by Foree Wells last year. A budget was set, tasks were assigned and we were off and running. Since the Society is an affiliated member of the Blues Foundation, the winner will get an automatic berth in the 11th National Amateur Talent contest to be held in Memphis this fall. Another incentive is a chance to perform on Saturday night at the Waterside Arts and Blues Festival, scheduled for the Fourth of July Weekend.
Our First To-Become-Annual contest will be held Saturday, May 22 at the Bluebird Cafe. We are planning for at least fifteen competing acts, with the preliminary rounds starting at 2:00 p.m., followed by the semifinals in the evening and the winning act doing the final set that night.
We would like to make this concert a regional event and have sent information to other clubs and blues societies throughout the Midwest. All types of blues acts are encourage to participate, including acoustic, amplified, country, urban, solo or group. If you've think you've got what it takes, do not earn over 50% of your income as a performer, do not have a recording in national distribution and have not signed a recording contract or have a booking management agreement, then this could be your big chance.
Locally, applications can be picked up at Ear X-tacy, Cherokee Blues Club and the Bluebird Cafe. The application, a demo tape, a photograph and a $15 entry fee are due by April 1 so we may begin previewing the entries. Tickets will be $4 for the afternoon shows and $5 for the evening semi- and final shows. Kyana Blues Society members will get a $1 discount. A special T-shirt will be available.
If you are in the Indianapolis area, check out the Barrel House Blues Supper club, located at 8702 Keystone Crossing. They had a grand opening February 12 and 13, featuring Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women, on the 12th and Junior Wells on the 13th. The owner, Meg Jones, will promote both national and local blues acts Monday through Saturday. Acoustic shows perform from 5 – 9 p.m. each night. Electric blues are showcased on Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday is jam night with a different band hosting each month. Curtis Marlatt and his band the Kicks performed several times as an acoustic act and featured band during February and March. The club's menu includes lunch, dinner and a "last set" cuisine that is hot and spicy.
One parting shot: look out for a recent recording by one of my favorite contemporary bluesmen, Byther Smith. Smith, who has not recorded in over six years, since Razor Records released Housefire, has just had an album released, entitled Mad Man, on Bullseye Blues.
Smith and the Nightriders made a rare Louisville appearance back on February 10, 1990, when Homefront put on a great show at Bellarmine College to celebrate the 1st Anniversary of the Kyana Blues Society. The program also included H-Bomb Ferguson and da Mudcats.